Dear Maurice Bénichou,
A key figure in theatre, you are also known to the public through films – nearly 50 – for your powerful roles, steeped in emotion and truth.
Your ascent, as you begin your career in cafés, where you perform as a singer, is punctuated by encounters. You say that you “found a way, a style that corresponds to your nature”.
Marcel Maréchal made you start on stage in 1965. You will then meet the greatest, Jean-Pierre Vincent, Patrick Chéreau, Luca Ronconi, and, decisive match, Peter Brook.
When you came to see him in 1974, you said, “I jumped over to his house”. You nevertheless become his favorite comedian by illustrating yourself in The Storm, Hamlet, the Cherry Orchard, and even the «tickler» of the Man who took his wife for a hat. And of course in the mythical Mahabharata, on stage in 1985, then in its version filmed in 1989. From this work, which requires three years of preparation, you evoke «a considerable human adventure that opens the soul». You say you are touched by the force of what is said in this text, yet so far from us. For all of us, forever, you are Ganesh and Krishna, (whom you will meet again in 2002), a pedestrian in heaven (will say Liberation) barefoot, and you know how to set us down, amazed spectators at the end of a long journey, on the shores of the illusion of the theatre, and of its truth.
You are deeply moved by David Harrower’s Blackbird, a closed-door event that resonates very strongly and plunges into the depths of the human soul, love and desire.
In the 1970s, you also became a theatre director. You successfully orchestrated about 15 plays. Loleh Bellon was thus absent several times nominated to the Molières in 1989, notably in the category of best director.
Already present in TV films, it is in 1972, dear Maurice Bénichou, that you appear in the cinema, in Les camisards de René Allio. From then on, you play in popular comedies such as Yves Robert’s Un éléphant ça trompe beaucoup, or Animal, directed by Claude Zidi.
You also work in political films, such as Laurent Heynemann’s Question on the Algerian War. You also camp a Mossad agent in Eric Rochan’s Les Patriotes, alongside Yvan Attal.
You are also a modest and warm father in Drôle de Félix, by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, a Teddy Award-winning film at the Berlin Film Festival in 2000, or the moving owner of a souvenir box, in Jean-Pierre’s Améle Poulain’s The Fabulous DestinyPierre Jeunet.
On another note, Michael Haneke, who is part of your beautiful encounters, offers you dark and memorable roles, in Code inconnu, or Le temps du loup, then Caché, in which you interpret the role of an immigrant, Majid, with a magnificent density.
I cannot be available, you say, if I am in full activity. If I were too quiet, stage fright would take me, I would go crazy.
This is how you continue to shoot under the direction of equally prestigious filmmakers such as Cédric Klapisch, Pascal Bonitzer, Eric Caravaca, Barbet Schroeder, and, very recently, Renaud Cohen, which offers you a return to comedy in In case I have the Palme d'or.
In light of your work, you say “we need material, otherwise we have no pleasure”. Let’s bet that your career, so dense, is punctuated, you who are also the voice of the rabbi in Le chat du rabbin (while François Morel, lends his voice to the cat).
Dear Maurice Benichou, for your many talents, appreciated both by professionals and the general public, for having systematically brought us this «extra of soul», engraved forever in the hearts of those who have seen you in the theatre or the cinema; for your rich artistic career, which is part of our cultural heritage, on behalf of the President of the Republic, and by virtue of the powers conferred upon us, we make you an Officer of the Order of the Legion of Honour.
Dear Yvan Attal,
In the dark room of a Créteil cinema, your childhood flows to the rhythm of the sessions. From this young cinephilia, your parents and their double exile, from Algeria to Israel, from Israel to France, you have inherited a deep attachment to the family and an unconditional love of cinema.
Passionate about American cinema, films by Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese or John Cassavetes, the hero of your childhood is Al Pacino. You feed your imagination with the black and protest novels of Norman Mailer and Truman Capote.
Eric Rochant opens the doors to cinema and success. In A World Without Mercy, the film of an entire generation, you are Halpern, the friend, the confidant, the alter ego. Alongside Hippolyte Girardot, you embody the end of the illusions and utopias of an idle youth. In a film that many then considered as marking the renewal of French cinema. Your remarkable performance was awarded the Best Male Hopeful Award in 1990. The accuracy and authenticity of your game seduce Eric Rochant who sees in you a diamond raw. He entrusts you with the leading role in his following films, In the Eyes of the World and Les Patriotes.
Willingly evoking the difficulty of a profession that demands impudence, you do not hide your worries or your anxieties. Constantly challenging and questioning your talent, you throw yourself body and soul into your roles. And from a young hope crowned at the Césars and crowned with the Jean Gabin Prize in 1997 in many supporting roles, you become one of the most sought after actors of your generation. Lucas Belvaux, entrusts you with the headliner of Rapt, then 38 witnesses. With Partir by Catherine Corsini and Les Regrets by Cédric Kahn, you offer the public all the faces of devouring passion, sometimes touching or terrifying, victim or executioner.
If many have seen in you a French Al Pacino, it is to Tom Cruise that you lend your voice in the French version of his greatest hits. Before being solicited by the greatest American directors: Sydney Pollack for The Performer and Steven Spielberg for Munich.
It is Claude Berri who pushes you behind the camera: he supports you, produces you and accompanies you on this new path. In 2001, you directed My wife is an actress. The film is a success: the audience is won over by this tender and sincere production of the everyday life of people who love each other. He is also touched by this overwhelming declaration of love to your muse and wife, as we have rarely seen on screen. For They married and had many children, Alain Chabat and Emmanuelle Seigner are adventure. Claude Berri too, the accomplice of the first hour, to whom you entrust symbolically and tenderly the role of the father of your character. In your last film, Do not Disturb, you share the poster with François Cluzet. The advice of Claude Berri bears fruit: by passing behind the camera, you rediscover the pleasure of the game, the freedom of the actor.
For your return to the stage where you took your first steps, you wanted a strong text. This is done with Race by David Mamet where the characters are pushed into their entrenchements to the point of breaking their certainties.
Because you embody a lively and varied French cinema, open to the world, a cinema that addresses all audiences with the same demands, because you are a man of heart and convictions, it is a great joy and a great pride for me to pay tribute to you today.
Dear Yvan Attal, on behalf of the President of the Republic, we make you a Knight of the National Order of Merit.
Dear Christine Angot,
“Real life, life finally discovered and clarified, the only life therefore fully lived, is literature.” This resolution of the Proustian quest can be found in you, in the pages of Part of the Heart, “Literature was life speaking (…) with the danger of error but life stronger than error, the word stronger (…) than anything else.” To read you is to touch the essence of literature, to take the measure of what it can be life itself, and more. And it is a great joy and pride for me to welcome you this evening, you who write as we live, with intensity, with necessity, with disconcerting strength and accuracy.
You are on the horizon of letters like a black, total, devastating light. You are not just subversive, you are radical. You cut through appearances, cut through conventions, to reveal, dig up, reach the truth. The truth of things, of beings, of love, of life. You tell "the living body" to the point that writing itself becomes life.
You are also radical because of your freedom. You who oppose a glaring “I” to all the lies in the world. And in your novels blows a wind of revolt, in them scolds the untamed power of a writing that does not stand the detour. Maybe because you write like we fight. Perhaps also because for each novel, as in the marble that is cut, it is «a part of the heart that goes to sculpt the book», «a part of the heart removed so that the bones of the thing to say appear better.»
This brilliant «I», the Angot Subject, has blackened many pages. You tell it without false modesty and without precaution, without concern to please or displease. Your subject is naked life, as we don’t usually dare to see it. Your subject is also The Others to whom you dedicate a novel. Never alone facing your page or yourself, you wanted to tell all these voices, anonymous or familiar that surround us.
To read you is to experience the contained violence, the power of words, the power of literature.
With you reading is never indifferent. Whether one feels complicit or endangered, one rarely comes out unharmed from your novels. Every page is a confrontation. The reader is caught up in the tumult of your writing, a direct and physical writing, intimate, shameless and yet universal. A style that he recognizes from the very first lines, so fair and clear, as a blade that advances in the secret, tender and tormented folds of life. The words that are often rushed around you go straight to the heart and even though we think we don’t understand anything, we understand everything.
With you, beauty as well as truth, is definitive. Implacable and rough. Jean-Marc Roberts is one of the first to grasp the strength and accuracy of this brutal and unadorned beauty of your work, a harsh and often painful beauty. I could not speak of you without mentioning the one who was your editor for a long time, the one who read, defended, loved and supported you and whose memory I wish to salute.
Dear Christine, because you have never ceased to defend this freedom which animates your pen; because you have written some of the most beautiful and moving pages of our contemporary literature; but above all because there is unaltered courage, a saving radicalism in your books, in your positions, in your life. It is with immense joy that I pay you today, with admiration, gratitude and friendship, the tribute of the Republic.
Dear Christine Angot, on behalf of the French Republic, we make you an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters.
Dear François Morel,
“You can rhyme characters the way you rhyme words.” This remark by Queneau, the poet of the words «with warm flesh» that you admire so much, is necessary to evoke your journey. You, the virtuoso of words and formulas who, from popular expressions to metaphors, know as no one makes words spring from life.
Very early on, the living text, the emotion produced by words, fascinate you. Born in Flers, you spend your childhood in the Orne. You are lulled by the voice and hundreds of radio broadcasts of Gérard Sire, the storyteller with surrealist impulses and tender humour, and grow up on the songs of Brassens and Moustaki. Acquired because of the words, their music and their games and after a master’s degree in letters at the University of Caen, you decide to turn to the theatre and join the school on rue Blanche.
You then read Aymé, Queneau, Dubillard or Renard. So many poets of humour who make ordinary and everyday objects of theater and literature. So many masters of the right word guide your vocation.
After your first steps on stage alongside Marina Tomé, Jérôme Deschamps and Macha Makeïeff bring you to the forefront. This decisive meeting marked the beginning of a ten-year complicity. A wonderful troupe adventure in the service of a popular theatre with a quirky universe where ordinary life, its everyday characters and insignificant details take on the dimensions of the stage and the screen. The Deschiens, and Fromagerie Morel in particular, have thus sustained the collective imagination.
After the troupe and the improvisation, you take the pen to serve your talent of the Habits du dimanche, your first show on childhood, Collection particulière, the singing tour directed by Jean-Michel Ribes.
Author, you continue to serve the texts of others, especially those of Molière and Dubillard who stick to your skin. You are Bourgeois Gentilhomme several times and this year again in a production of Catherine Hiegel.
We discover you at the cinema where you give life and relief to beautiful second roles. And every Friday, we eagerly await your column on France Inter where you open an exhilarating parenthesis in the continuous stream of news, from flamboyant, subtly corrosive, tributes.
This year, the Théâtre de la Pépinière gives you carte blanche with 6 plays where the public can measure the extent and diversity of your talents: you are director for Instants Critiques with Olivier Saladin and Olivier Broche, reader of the magnificent Hyacinthe and Rose, singer for Le soir, des lions, author and actor for the very existential The end of the world is for Sunday that you play again tonight, and the letter Many things with the complicity of Jean Rochefort. In 22:22, you will leave the stage to Lucrèce Sassella and Antoine Salher to share with the public this artistic crush.
Your talent, your love of words and the French language have earned you the Raymond Devos Award this year. One could not imagine a better reward than to honour you with the one you dedicated a book to in 2012. He who, to say it in your words, "has risen, miraculous and mysterious, behind a red curtain that opened on the imagination."
I was unfortunately not with you but I have no doubt that the welcome of Charité-sur-Loire and Gaétan Gorce was at the height of your talent. In the footsteps of the Festival du Mot, I too pay tribute to a French Republic whose language you so admirably celebrate. Actor, singer, director, author, storyteller and columnist, you have given words a taste for life.
Dear François Morel, on behalf of the French Republic, we make you an officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.